|Ryan Lochte attends the Team USA New View at Midtown Loft & Terrace on June 23, 2015 in New York City.
Don’t get too close to Ryan Lochte. The 11-time Olympic medalist is now incorporating the martial art of Muay Thai into his training outside the pool.
“If you try to come at me and stab me, I can block it,” Lochte said with a laugh.
The 31-year-old swimmer is in Boston this weekend for the third stop on Team USA’s Road to Rio Tour, presented by Liberty Mutual Insurance. In Boston this weekend (Oct. 17-18) — one of 10 such tour stops across the nation through August 2016 — Lochte will be joined by other Olympic legends, such as gymnast Nastia Liukin and swimmer Dara Torres, and Olympic fencing hopeful Eli Dershwitz. The tour stop in Boston is being held in conjunction with the annual Head of the Charles Regatta, so Olympic gold-medal-winning rowers Mary Whipple, Esther Lofgren and Caryn Davies, and Olympic bronze medalist rower Dan Walsh, will also be on hand.
“Our main objective is to get everyone involved with the Olympic Movement, the Road to Rio,” explained Lochte.
Except for sponsor appearances and Muay Thai training, don’t look for Lochte outside the pool in the coming months. The swimmer who is known for his fashion statements (loud footwear and his grill), TV appearances (E!’s “What Would Ryan Lochte Do?”) and catchphrase “Jeah,” is all about training for the next 10 months.
“Fashion is my passion,” he said. “But right now, I’m just focusing on swimming and trying to get the job done.”
Assuming that he qualifies, Rio will be Lochte’s fourth Olympic Games. But he’s taking a slightly different route this time.
First, he changed his coach — to David Marsh at SwimMAC in Charlotte, North Carolina.
“The quality, the intensity, every aspect is a lot different and that’s what I need in my life,” said Lochte. “I’m 31, I’ve been training for a long time. I just needed a change. David Marsh is that change.”
Training in Florida before his previous three Olympics, Lochte was focused on yardage — “yardage, yardage, yardage.” With Marsh, he has focused more on sprinting — to work on his 100-meter speed.
“It’s a lot different,” said Lochte, “but at the same time, I’m still getting my butt kicked.”
He has also dialed back on his extracurricular activities.
“I’m actually watching more Netflix because I’m not doing more activity outside like I used to,” he said. “I’m making my body recover more, which is definitely a key. That’s actually something that I never really did in the past.”
As for Muay Thai, it’s a new dry-land routine that he learned from a trainer in Charlotte. Also known as Thai boxing or “The Art of Eight Limbs,” it uses the entire body as a weapon: the hands become the sword and dagger; the shins and forearms act as armor against blows; elbows fell opponents like a hammer; and the legs and knees work like an axe and staff.
Which could make Lochte a deadly weapon outside the pool as well as in it.
From Boston, Lochte will head to Colorado for a training camp. His next event is the Arena Pro Swim Series at Minneapolis on Nov. 12-14, 2015. He will then compete in the Duel in the Pool in Indianapolis on Dec. 11-12, 2015.
Just don’t ask him what events he hopes to swim in Rio.
“I have events that I want to do, I have goals that I want to accomplish in Rio,” he said. “But those are my goals, and honestly I’m going to keep them to myself. Only me and my coach know. I’m going to keep you guys guessing.”
Chances are he aims to qualify in the 200-meter individual medley. In August, he won his fourth consecutive world title in the event and is the only American male swimmer — and second male swimmer in the world — to four-peat a world title. But he has never won an Olympic gold medal in the event.
In the 200 IM at the 2015 world championships, he used the “Lochte turn” between the breaststroke and freestyle legs. He touched the wall after the breaststroke leg, then pushed off and stayed on his back for 10 meters before surfacing, flipping onto his stomach and swimming freestyle to the finish. One month later, FINA declared this turn technique illegal.
Lochte claims the turn made him a second faster in the event.
“Now they’ve made a rule saying I can’t do that, so they’re trying to limit my capability of, I don’t know, getting faster,” he said. “I’m just going to have to find different ways to beat everyone.”
But don’t expect Lochte to be fashion-free in Rio next summer. Although acknowledging that he’s more mature, he is debating whether or not to bring out his grill again.
“I might have to keep the tradition alive,” he said, “or kind of end it.”
In Boston, look for Lochte in the Weld Exhibition near Harvard’s boathouse along the Charles River. He is slated to meet and greet fans on Saturday from 2:30-4 p.m. and Sunday from 12:30-2:30 p.m.
The Road to Rio Tour is free to the public and allows visitors to meet and speak with Olympic and Paralympic medalists and hopefuls, get autographs and take part in interactive sports demonstrations and virtual-reality experiences. There also will be Team USA giveaways.
The Road to Rio Tour in Boston will run from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. each day at Weld Exhibition.
A freelance writer based in Vermont, Peggy Shinn has covered three Olympic Games. She has contributed to TeamUSA.org since its inception in 2008.